Charter School Accountability

There has been a lot of conversation lately regarding charter schools and their effects on a community. Educationally and economically, they can put stress on a district.

I have done a lot of research on charter schools and found that they can be either good or bad. Charter schools were created to offer an alternative setting for students to be successful. The problem is that they have become a way for big business to make money, and educating children has become less important.

An example of this is The Brighter Choice Foundation in Albany, NY. They are a “management company” that gives “advice” to charter schools within the Albany School District. At their highest point they managed 11 public charter schools and each school paid around $1,000,000 for fees and rent. That’s over $10,000,000 per year going to the Foundation and not the education of children.

Albany taxpayers vote on the public school budget every year and they can see where their money is being spent. Over $30,000,000 is given to charter schools and no one can tell them what to do with the money. This is why a third of the money can go to the businessmen who have no background in education. These businessmen get paid even if the schools close due to poor test scores and low enrollment. As the schools are underperforming they are still getting paid and will continue to get paid until the schools close and the undereducated children go back to the district public school.

Currently there are 8 schools in the Brighter Choice Network and 2 are set to close at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Albany students are choosing the district schools and Brighter Choice has to find new students. They had to go outside the Albany School District and send flyers to surrounding districts to recruit new students.

These districts, schools, and taxpayers cannot stop the charter schools. They cannot stop the $1,000,000 fees that are funneled through the businesses associated with the public charter schools. A smaller district outside Albany that has 10 students decide to try the charter school can cost their taxpayers $150,000 and 30 students can affect a budget by $500,000. Within five to ten years a management company can earn $100,000,000 and if the school closes they can just retire or open another one.

I am not anti-charter school; however, public charter schools cannot remain educationally and financially unaccountable. I believe taxpayers should have control of why and how their money is being spent. This accountability will help charter schools to rise to the occasion or close down. Either way it’s ok.


To Teach or Not to Teach

Dav teachingI’ve been a teacher for over fifteen years and in that time I’ve seen dozens and dozens of teachers start and end their careers. There is nothing better than listening to a teacher with over twenty-five years of experience talking about why they went into education and nothing worse than listening to someone new to the profession talking about why they are leaving it. I started thinking about what makes someone so successful as a teacher and what makes someone else struggle.

The amount of work that a teacher has on a daily and weekly basis can intimidate even the most organized person. Staying on top of planning and grading is only part of the challenge. Classroom management, behavior management, and parental communication also have to fit into a teacher’s routine. If a new teacher learns how to juggle all of these tasks successfully they will become a good educator.

A third to a half of new teachers are unprepared for this work-load and they struggle. Most of them will leave the profession and do something that pays more or is less stressful. Struggling teachers that do stay, either get help through a mentor or are denied tenure. At least this is what I hope.

Teachers work in urban schools, rural schools, suburban schools, and private schools and they discover that teaching and learning is different in every environment. Different teacher’s personalities are more successful in different surroundings. Someone who teaches honors classes will have to change techniques to work with a skills class and a skills teacher better be prepared for the challenges of honors students.

Some teachers who excel in one environment will struggle in another. High school is different than middle school, first grade is different than fourth grade, and every school building has its own personality. On occasion a teacher will be a good fit in one class and then be put in another class where they are less comfortable. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad teacher; they’re just not the best fit in all classes.

Unrealistic expectations and unfair evaluations are the final straw for many educators. With teachers being vilified by politicians and the media, many would-be teachers are rethinking the decision to teach and people who have been in the classroom for decades are looking to retire as soon as possible.

Teachers cannot control hunger, neglect, or abuse. They cannot make students do homework, classwork, or study for a test. They cannot make them take medication or stop taking illegal drugs. They can be prepared and give their heart and soul to a classroom and school. Despite what the media tells us, most teachers give 110% every day and are rarely thanked for it.


Teaching 2015

I have been watching the news, reading articles, and listening to friends and family for the past couple of months and everyone seems to be focusing on education, or lack thereof, in America. The Governor has a plan to fix it and even the President thinks he knows what the problems and solutions are.

Teachers are the problem.
If we could only get rid of bad teachers the education problem would improve.

Public education is the problem.
If we could only get rid of poor performing schools the education problem would improve.

Teacher evaluations are the solution.
If we could only improve the evaluation process of teachers we would be able to get rid of the bad ones and the education problem would improve.

Charter public schools are the solution.
If we could only have more charter schools then students would have better, more successful schools to attend and the educatio8n problem would improve.

These problems and solutions are not only oversimplified, they’re wrong.

One third of new teachers leave within the first three years of teaching and about half within the first five years. It’s a tough job and many people don’t realize the hours that have to be put in and the skill required to teach. Once a person realizes that they can make more money doing almost anything else, they have to decide if this is truly what they were born to do, or not.

I agree that we need effective teachers in the classroom, however; I disagree with the statement that most teachers are ineffective because of low student test scores. There has been a plethora of research done on student success and the leading factor in almost every study is economic. Students with an economic advantage have less stress in their lives, are more likely to have educated parents, and are better able to focus on educational success. Teachers are responsible for being prepared for their lessons and delivering those lessons to the class. They are also responsible for classroom management and behavior management.

If teachers are evaluated on the performance of their students then we should consider it for everyone who improves the lives of the people around them. If a person gets a cavity they can assume they have a bad dentist. If a person gets lung cancer, or skin cancer, or colon cancer, or any cancer, they should be able to sue their doctor for malpractice. Diabetes and high blood pressure are because of an ineffective doctor. If a person is overweight, underweight, drinks too much, if they engage in risky behavior, sue the doctor, the therapist, divorce the spouse. If a house gets broken into it’s the police department’s fault and if a house catches on fire blame the fire department for not preparing homeowners better.

With charter schools we take the art of teaching and turn it into a business. The purpose of a business is to make money, and the business of charter schools is very good. (They are making a lot of money.) Educationally however, they are not preforming as well. They expel low performing and behaviorally struggling students or encourage them to return to the regular public school. Even with this advantage charter schools struggle to be successful. The schools continue to receive taxpayer money regardless of student performance and up to a third of the money goes to management fees and other costs that taxpayers have no vote on.

Politicians can tell you that they have the answer but if it involves money or blaming someone they don’t. There is only one thing that research has shown improves education. Smaller class sizes and experienced teachers. Everything else belongs to the lobbyists.